Microsoft names Kunle Awosika as the new Managing Director of the Africa Transformation Office (ATO) in a new reorganization to optimize its operations in Africa to scale impact. He succeeds Wael Elkabbany, who now heads Microsoft’s new Africa Regional Cluster (ARC) subsidiary. Kunle will lead the ATO subsidiary with a focus on driving digital transformation initiatives across the continent.
“I am passionate about the incredible potential Africa has to become a truly connected continent that exports digital goods and services to the rest of the world. I am delighted to have the opportunity to meaningfully impact this growth and help unlock the continent’s full digital potential,” said Kunle.
Kunle has over 22 years of experience working in multiple countries across the continent. He also has a deep understanding and passion for Africa’s growth. He has held several positions at Microsoft, including director of Enterprise Business, Country Manager Microsoft Kenya, as well as director of Small and Medium Corporates, Emerging Markets. Kunle Awosika was also one of three pioneer team members when Microsoft opened its Nigeria office.
He is credited with the introduction of different transformational technology opportunities to a wide range of organizations in both the public and private sectors, enabling them to unlock significant value. Kunle will bring this deep experience in multiple African markets to the new role.
While welcoming him to the new role, Elkabbany said: “With his multifaceted experience of the continent and deep understanding of transformative technology, Kunle Awosika is ideally placed to lead the strategy, investments, and initiatives of Microsoft’s transformation plans for the African continent.”
“I look forward to playing a role in unlocking Africa’s potential as the ATO develops and steers strategic partnerships with governments, international organizations, and partners to accelerate digital transformation agendas and fuel a knowledge-based economy,” Kunle added.
Microsoft Africa Transformation Office
Launched in 2021, the ATO supersedes the continent-wide multi-million dollar Microsoft 4Afrika investment project launched in 2012. In simple terms, the Microsoft ATO is Microsoft’s move to scale out what it did with 4Afrika across the continent. It focuses on enabling growth and fuelling investment in four essential development areas. – Digital infrastructure, skilling, small and medium enterprises (SMEs), and start-ups. –
Now, we have a responsibility to play a different role that drives impact at scale, says Wanja Gitonga, Microsoft ATO Communications lead. Reaching millions of Africans and accelerating Africa’s digital transformation to help deliver long-lasting African economic prosperity through digital technologies. The ATO will play an enabling role to accelerate and scale up existing programs within Microsoft, she adds.
Wanja notes that Microsoft is committed to rethinking how and why it develops digital solutions and strategies to better serve the needs of Africa. Through large-scale digital partnerships and initiatives across infrastructure, skilling, SMEs, and startups, we hope to impact the lives of millions of Africans and foster economic prosperity through digital technologies.
Microsoft understands that it cannot achieve these ambitious goals alone. Saying, strategic partnerships with governments, international organizations, multinationals, and African enterprises will accelerate investments in Africa and increase the continent’s export of digital services.
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Solar-based internet service provider, Tizeti, has partnered with Microsoft to roll out affordable high-speed broadband internet infrastructure in Nigeria starting with Oyo State. The service comes with an introductory N2,222 or $5 offer for monthly fixed broadband and installation costs.
Through the Microsoft Airband Initiative, Tizeti and Microsoft will leverage low-cost wireless technologies. Making it easier and cheaper for people in underserved communities to access the internet and get connected to the digital economy. The internet in Oyo State will empower more Nigerians, stimulate economic activities, and widen the broadband envelope in Africa.
“Communities need reliable, affordable internet access in our increasingly digital world,” said Microsoft Airband General Manager, Vickie Robinson. “That’s why Microsoft is working with providers like Tizeti to connect the unconnected, expand opportunity, and close the global digital divide.”
Microsoft’s Airband Initiative is focused on advancing digital equity—access to affordable internet, affordable devices, and digital skills—as a platform for empowerment and digital transformation across the world.
Speaking on the partnership, Tizeti’s Chief Executive Officer of Tizeti, Kendall Ananyi, said that Microsoft Airband collaboration will complement Tizeti’s existing initiative in Oyo State and lay a foundation for a robust and thriving digital ecosystem for the large population of vibrant, young people in Oyo State. “We are happy to work with Microsoft on the Airband Initiative as it extends our mission of bringing affordable and reliable internet to more Nigerians outside the digital envelope,” Ananyi said.
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Wentors is partnering with Microsoft to provide mentorship and training to one thousand women in tech. Through the initiative Microsoft 4Afrika will provide a platform to encourage women working in the technology industry in Africa.
Wentors is a global community of women in technology mentoring and nurturing each other through a platform in which experienced women in the tech industry can mentor upcoming young women joining the industry, and final year students looking to start a technology career.
The initiative was launched by Microsoft 4Afrika employee, EduAbasi Chukwunweike, a graduate in software engineering with her Masters’ degree in Informatics. Chukwunweike noticed that as a solutions specialist in the enterprise team responsible for the cloud business in Nigeria, most of her conversations within the customer environment were with men. This got her thinking about how she could make an impact with gender diversity in the technology industry, and ultimately led to the launch of Wentors.
“We believe the people best situated to nurture these dreams are the women currently in technology and hence we are redeﬁning the mentorship roadmap by building a global community of women in technology who nurture each other,” says Chukwunweike.
The organisation runs Cohorts programmes, eight to 12-week periods during which each mentor commits to an hour-long weekly session with her mentee. The cohorts have weekly themes and provide the mentors with mentorship packages to guide them through the process. As part of the cohort, the programme provides soft skills training and webinars in areas such as personal branding, networking, communication and Imposter syndrome. The goal of this training is to provide women entering the tech industry with the skills necessary to thrive and sustain a career within the tech ecosystem. The Wentors community grants its participants access to expertise crucial for career progression.
“An opportunity to interact with great women in the tech space and having them give me an insight of the job market and ways to improve myself before getting into the job market is such a bonus for me, considering I am a student,” comments Anne Wariara, a participant from Kenya. “Being exposed to workshops that enable me grow my soft skill is also the best considering most institutions dwell on equipping us with technical skills and overlooking on the soft skills which often play a huge role in our career,” she adds.
The programmes are all facilitated virtually, which enables a global audience to participate, and uses a platform that leverages AI algorithms to match mentors with mentees, and a mentoring framework with a set number of sessions, continuous feedback between mentors and mentees, and a progress measurement. The organisation uses Microsoft’s Office 365 and hosts all its training and webinars using Teams.
To date, Wentors has facilitated mentorship among 240 women across four continents, with a community of over 900 members. Now, the programme has set itself an ambitious target of facilitating 1,000 mentorships across the world. To achieve this lofty goal, the organisation is partnering with different communities and tech companies.
“Meeting this goal is vitally important, as this brings us closer to increasing the numbers of women represented in the tech industry,” comments Chukwunweike.
“Our ultimate goal is to have women in technology make up 50% across all positions in the IT industry, which amounts to impacting the lives of 8 million women globally“.
“It’s evident by the significant investments into skills development and educational programmes that Microsoft believes in upskilling our youth to have the right skills to succeed in the Fourth Industrial Revolution. It is a social, moral and economic necessity to ensure young girls and women in Africa are given the skills to master technology and increase the number of future-ready professionals,” she adds.
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Amrote Abdella, Regional Director Microsoft 4Afrika, believes cutting-edge technology such as data-driven agriculture can solve the challenge of food security in Africa. Find out more on why she believes this through partner activities and programs across Africa.
One of most the prominent challenges facing Africa is providing food security for its citizens. While many farmers still rely on traditional techniques to coax a living from the land, there are opportunities to use cutting-edge technology to drive Africa towards a food-secure future.
2 billion – no access to safe, nutritious and sufficient food
The Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) reports that over 2 billion people do not have access to safe, nutritious and sufficient food. A steady increase in hunger since 2014 together with rising obesity, clearly indicates the need to accelerate and scale up actions to strengthen food systems and protect people’s livelihoods. It seems only fitting then, that in 2020, the theme for World Food Day is ‘Our Actions are Our Future’. Accelerating innovation in agri-tech will enable data-driven farming that can optimise yields, boost farm productivity and increase profitability – all while feeding a nation.
AI – Cutting-edge technology
AI in agriculture uses cutting-edge data, advanced analytics and machine learning to bring centuries-old farming knowledge into the modern age, giving farmers the tools to optimise crop yields and mitigate the effects of climate change through tools like smart irrigation. With agriculture sustaining 70% of Africa’s livelihoods, Microsoft is committed to ensuring that all farming communities are equipped with the latest tools including AI, IoT and edge computing to improve productivity and sustainability across the sector, leveraging our extensive partnerships and initiatives network in the process.
AI as an Enabler
There have been references in the recent past of AI replacing people in jobs, but what happens when AI and IoT devices enable people to spend less time on menial manual labour and more time boosting productivity and crop yields? AI and cloud technology can be used to monitor soil, climate changes and more to make better decisions on when, where, and how much to plant on farms. Precision farming, brought about by the adoption of advanced technologies into the agricultural sector, will revolutionise food production.
In Kenya, SunCulture helps farmers improve their crop yields through solar-powered irrigation systems. Using IoT technology, SunCulture customers are generating 10x more annual income, experiencing a 300% increase in crop yields, and saving 17 hours of manually moving water per week. And by leveraging TV white spaces (TVWS) technology that expands high-speed internet access to underserved areas, SunCulture is bringing precision farming to more smallholder farmers.
The Nigeria Incentive-based Risk Sharing System for Agricultural Lending (NIRSAL) recently entered into a Memorandum of Understanding with Microsoft to collaborate in helping Nigerian farmers become more productive, reduce costs, practice sustainable agriculture and achieve better agricultural outcomes through the deployment of the FarmBeats platform, which harnesses sensors, drones and cameras for seamless data collection, helping farmers improve crop yields as well as increase income. As many as 8 million farmers and 4 million hectares will be positively affected.
Particularly for smallholder farmers, it’s a challenge to get reliable weather and market information in real-time that can help with agricultural decision-making. But almost every farmer has a phone in their back pocket.
Democratizing access to information
A mobile platform has recently been built by a team of Microsoft developers to democratise access to information using a feature or a smartphone. Farmers can access information on pest and soil diagnosis, market prices, agricultural news, success stories from neighbouring farmers, weather, soil testing and personalised recommendations for maximising yields based on their soil tests, with an intended initial impact of 100 000 farmers.
Agri-tech social entrepreneurs
Other agri-tech social entrepreneurs are effecting real changes for farmers and their supply chains. Twiga Foods is a mobile-based business-to-business food supply platform that links smallholder farmers in rural Kenya to informal retail vendors in cities. N-Frnds brings the power of digital via mobile to subsistence and smallholder farmers in Africa and other emerging markets and has nurtured a community of farmers who can communicate with each other without the need for an internet connection or mobile data. It also provides access to financial services for market segments that are traditionally underserved by formal banking and insurance.
Microsoft believes in increasing access to agricultural knowledge through collaboration. It takes an entire ecosystem to initiate change, and that includes companies, government departments and agencies, and a network of startups and entrepreneurs, all with a common goal of solving food insecurity.
Microsoft, through the 4Afrika initiative, has collaborated with the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) to co-create technology solutions in Africa as it works to improve food security for 30 million farming households across 11 countries by 2021. The partnership stands alongside investments such as our support of the World Bank’s 1 Million Farmers Platform, which aims to bring one million farmers onto a digital platform over the next three years.
Driving impact in agriculture across Africa
We are also working with ministries across Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa and Egypt to drive impact in agriculture. In Egypt, in partnership with the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology and the Ministry of Agriculture, the engagement includes intelligent crop detection and water demand forecasting. Key focus being on a successful farmer engagement to promote good agricultural practices, secure data sharing between agricultural entities, and connected farms that enable data collection through agricultural IoT sensors.
Across the continent, from South Africa to Kenya, Ghana, Egypt and beyond, we are working hard to enable agri-tech through various channels and partnerships. Technology has the potential to change the face of farming, using smart tools and platforms for precision farming, predicting weather patterns, and maximising the use of scarce water resources.
By harnessing cutting-edge technology in agriculture, we can help solve the pressing issues around food security to meet the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal #2 of Zero Hunger and enhance economic development in the process.
Former Microsoft Enterprise Skills Program Manager, Martin Ndlovu, assumes the new role of head of Skills Development of Microsoft’s Africa graduates and IT professionals skills program, SkillsLab.
In his new role, Martin will be responsible for creating and running programs that drive upskilling of graduates and IT professionals across the region.
Microsoft tells us, Martin is a visionary thinker who is passionate about the development of the African youth. He also brings to the role a wealth of experience in the technology space.
Africa is geared to becoming the youngest continent with the fastest-growing emerging markets, Martin Ndlovu shares. It is clear that for Africa to be competitive on the global market, its young population needs to embrace digital skills. As that[digital skills] will soon be a part of every industry conceivable.
Herein lies our goal to impart the skills that will enable every person and every organization on the continent to achieve more, he concludes.
Microsoft Kenya announces that over two thousand three hundred Kenyan graduates and interns will receive Microsoft training and certification by the end of this month.
The initiative by the company is aimed at closing the skills gap. As well as prepare the students for the world of work after college.
The program which started in December 2019 has seen 800 Kenyan graduates and interns trained so far. It is expected to see 1500 more students trained on Soft skills and Microsoft technologies by September 2020.
Martin Ndlovu, Head of Skills Development at Microsoft 4Afrika, notes that ensuring workplace readiness for our young graduates is important in Africa.
“What’s even more important in Africa, given the youth bulge and widening skills gap, is ensuring workplace readiness for our young graduates who are finding that their degree doesn’t quite fit the requirements of 4IR and the digital economy.”
Maurice Oduor, a participant in the programme shares, “the initiative has prepared me to venture into the world of cloud. From here, I plan to invest in my career towards cloud computing and maybe be an evangelist in the future.”